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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 9 Hansard (23 August) . . Page.. 3281 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

see is that the democratic appeal of the citizen-initiated referendum is also spurious. The legislation Mr Humphries put up does deal with a number of philosophical issues I raise.

CIR may appeal on the grounds that it gives the collective people, the people considered as a single agent, control over government. But democracy, properly conceived, does not argue for that sort of collective dictatorship. It requires that ordinary individual agents can exercise influence over government; they can effectively contest any pattern of public decision-making that appears not to take their interests into account. On many occasions in this chamber and outside, I have suggested that the real test of democracy is not how we handle the majority but how well we look after those who are the most marginalised and the minorities in our community.

The citizen-initiated referendum is an inherently anti-democratic device. It would empower the will of the collective people, releasing it from the traditional restraints on government. It may appeal to those who think, mistakenly, that democracy means all power to that will. But in so empowering the collective will it undermines that individual contestability of public decision-making and can have no attractions to those who realise that the essence of democracy is ensuring contestability, giving ordinary individuals, not the collective abstraction of "the people", an influence on public decision-making.

The collective people, I said earlier, has a status in relation to individuals akin to that of a royal personage. But in some respects the status is even greater. For whereas individuals can easily find support in complaining about, and plotting against, a royal master, the collective people stands beyond any moral reproach. By an irony of language, those who would remonstrate against the collective will must suffer the ignominy and ostracism that go with not trusting the plain people and holding out for an elitist point of view. Precisely because of its immunity to moral criticism, the collective people represents the worst of all dominating dangers, even worse than the despot and the dictator: the greatest threat to democracy in its proper contestatory sense.

The appeal of the citizen-initiated referendum, then, is based in the mistake of understanding democracy as the rule of the collective people, not the control of government by ordinary, everyday individuals. Let democracy be properly conceived-let individuals be put back at the centre of democratic concerns-and the opinion that many hold of the referendum idea should dramatically change. We should see it for what it is. It is a dangerous instrumentality that is as foreign to the spirit of democracy as demagoguery or propaganda.

It is nice to add to the debate today from a carefully prepared paper that took a great deal of work. Every time the citizen-initiated referendum raises its ugly head yet again, it is worth going back and looking at those fundamental principles of democracy. Having done so, I urge members of this Assembly once again to ensure that the issues before us today are given a very sound thumping.

MRS BURKE (3.45): Mr Speaker, I would like to add some practical reasons for supporting of this bill today. I believe that this bill gives the broader community the ability to have a say in what laws are made for the territory. Direct legislation is a very effective way of taking controversial issues out of the hands of extremists, pressure groups and power elites. The bill encourages and promotes better input from the

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